In this series of posts we will be looking at some of the little known quirks of Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy”, this incredible group of films had some really interesting challenges to overcome. Following the release of Akira Kurosawa‘s Yojimbo in 1963 in Italy, Sergio Corbucci has claimed he told Leone to make the film after viewing the film with friends and suggesting it to Enzo Barboni. Tonino Valerii alternatively said that Barboni and Stelvio Massi met Leone outside a theatre in Rome where they had seen Yojimbo, suggesting to Leone that it would make a good Western. It was also possibly the first instance of cowboy gothic.
A Fistful of Dollars is a 1964 Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood in his first leading role. Leone’s approach was to take the grammar of Italian film and to transpose it into a western setting. The film’s music was written by Ennio Morricone, credited as Dan Savio.
Released in Italy in 1964 and then in the United States in 1967, it initiated the popularity of the Spaghetti Western genre. It was followed by For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, also starring Eastwood. Collectively, the films are known as the “Dollars Trilogy“, or the “Man with No Name Trilogy”. All three films were later released in sequence in the United States in 1967, catapulting Eastwood into stardom.The film has been identified as an unofficial remake of the Akira Kurosawa film Yojimbo (1961), which resulted in a successful lawsuit by Toho, Yojimbo‘s production company. The release of the film was delayed in the United States, because distributors feared being sued by Kurosawa. This was the reason it was not shown in American cinemas until 1967.
As few Spaghetti Westerns had yet been released in the United States, many of the European cast and crew took on American-sounding stage names. These included Leone himself (“Bob Robertson”), Gian Maria Volonté (“Johnny Wels”), and composer Ennio Morricone (“Dan Savio”). A Fistful of Dollars was shot in Spain, mostly near Hoyo de Manzanares close to Madrid, but also (like its two sequels) in the Tabernas Desert and in the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, both in the province of Almería.
A Fistful of Dollars was released in Italy in September 12 ,1964. Although the film was shunned by the Italian critics, who gave it extremely negative reviews, it grossed more than any other Italian film up to that point. In January 1967 the film premièred in the United States grossing $4.5 million for the year. It eventually grossed $14.5 million in its American release. In 1969 it was re-released, earning $1.2 million in rentals.